This article describes the genetically encoded caspase-3 FRET-sensor based on the terbium-binding peptide, cleavable linker with caspase-3 recognition site, and red fluorescent protein TagRFP. The engineered construction performs two induction-resonance energy transfer processes: from tryptophan of the terbium-binding peptide to Tb(3+) and from sensitized Tb(3+) to acceptor--the chromophore of TagRFP. Long-lived terbium-sensitized emission (microseconds), pulse excitation source, and time-resolved detection were utilized to eliminate directly excited TagRFP fluorescence and background cellular autofluorescence, which lasts a fraction of nanosecond, and thus to improve sensitivity of analyses. Furthermore the technique facilitates selective detection of fluorescence, induced by uncleaved acceptor emission. For the first time it was shown that fluorescence resonance energy transfer between sensitized terbium and TagRFP in the engineered construction can be studied via detection of microsecond TagRFP fluorescence intensities. The lifetime and distance distribution between donor and acceptor were calculated using molecular dynamics simulation. Using this data, quantum yield of terbium ions with binding peptide was estimated.
Keywords: FRET-sensor; apoptosis; caspase-3; fluorescent proteins; terbium.